DOES PRAYER WORK?

 

Can you really pray the clouds away?

In 1938 Herbert Buffim wrote the song, “Pray the Clouds Away.”

“When you hear the thunder booming, when you see the lightning flash,

When the castles you have builded have fallen with a crash, 

And when everything around you has all crumbled to decay, 

If you will just start right in praying, you can pray the clouds away.”

 

Last week a cloud appeared on my horizon.  Oh, it wasn’t a booming thunder cloud.  My home was not in danger.  No one was dying.  I had not lost my last nickel, and the world wasn’t coming to an end.  It all had to do with my computer.  Since I know next nothing about this technical monster with which I deal every day, when something goes wrong, tears are often my first resort.

It was my e-mail.  All of a sudden I could not access my e-mail.  The screen said, “Century Link—Welcome Home.”  I was instructed to type in my e-mail address and password.  I did that, clicked “Login,” and in little red letters, I was told either my address or password or both were wrong.  I knew better.  I have had the same address and password for the last eleven years, but I obediently entered them again.  In fact I entered them a dozen or more times to no avail.  I was extremely busy, so I gave up until a couple of days ago, when I called Century Link.

After waiting 20 minutes, I carefully explained my problem to the voice on the other end of the line.  “Oh, we can fix that,” he assured me.  So after I had answered a myriad of questions, he went to work.  I could hear him typing and muttering, then he said, “Mrs. Reese, there is no evidence that you have ever had an e-mail account with us.  “Well,” I replied.  It has worked well for me for the past eleven years.”  So he typed and muttered some more.  Finally he called a tech to help him, but neither of them could find my e-mail.  

After nearly an hour, their only solution was no solution at all.  They would open a new account for me, but that meant losing all the e-mail addresses and other information I had accumulated through the years.  I wasn’t happy with that, so Chris kept searching, and I started praying.  Do you pray about such things—the “little” things?  Surely God doesn’t care about computers!

It was a very short prayer—just seven simple words.  “Lord, please help Chris find my e-mail.”  I had scarcely finished my prayer, when I heard an exclamation at the other end of the line.

“Did you find my e-mail?” I asked.  

“Yes,” he replied.

“How did you find it?” 

“I don’t know,” he answered hesitantly.

“Well, I know,” I told him.  “You may or may not believe in prayer,” I said, but just a moment ago I prayed asking The Lord to help you find my e-mail.  That’s how you found it.  Thank you so much for the time and effort you have put in.  I give you credit for that, but I give God the credit for finding my e-mail account.”

Chris thanked me for being appreciative, but he had not one word to say about my prayer.  It was not the time, nor was there opportunity to speak further, but I am sure he will think more than once about my prayer and how he found the e-mail.  There is no telling how God will use that brief encounter with Chris.

After we hung up, I thought how quickly God had answered my plea.  It is not always that way.  Most of the time I have to wait, and wait, and wait, and sometimes God simply says, “No!”

Later, I realized that God had not only answered my prayer about the e-mail, He had answered a prayer I had prayed that morning.  I had asked Him to connect me with someone that day to whom I could be a witness.  

Guess what!  Prayer does work.

In Philippians 4:6, there is wonderful counsel direct from God.  “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”

James 4:2 says, “…you do not have because you do not ask.”

Matthew 7:7, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

God promises that people who pray are far better off than people who don’t.                             

Oswald Chambers is credited with having coined the phrase, “Prayer Changes Things.”  Things do change for the better through prayer, and we change for the better through prayer.

I don’t know what cloud hangs over you today.  It may not be bigger than a man’s hand or it may cover the whole sky.  No matter!  Take the Apostle Paul’s advice.  Do not spend your time worrying over it.  PRAY!  God knows how to chance the clouds away, big or little, AND don’t forget “…with Thanksgiving!”

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

LITTLE THINGS MEAN A LOT

“Blow me a kiss from across the room

Say I look nice when I’m not

Touch my hair as you pass my chair

Little things mean a lot.”

This popular song was written by Edith Lindeman and Carl Stutz, was published in1953, and Billboard ranked it as the #1 song of 1954.

I really know nothing of Edith Lindeman and Carl Stutz, or why they wrote this song, but I can’t help wondering what difficulties they may have weathered or losses they may have suffered.  For, it seems that somewhere along life’s journey, they may have learned something about what is really important.

Take a look at some of the lyrics:

“Don’t have to buy me diamonds and pearls

Champagne, sable and such…

Give me your hand when I’ve lost my way

Give me your shoulder to cry on

Whether the day is bright or gray give me your heart to rely on…

Send me the warmth of a secret smile

To show me you haven’t forgot…

Little things mean a lot.”

 

During this past year—this very unusual year, I have learned to appreciate the little things more than ever.  In the beginning, self-quarantining wasn’t a big problem for me.  I was used to being alone, and I certainly had plenty to do to keep me busy.  Of course, I had always had an option—just jump in the car on a whim and go—to the mall, the grocery store, or lunch. 

 

Then all of a sudden everything changed.  Being home alone wasn’t fun anymore, and I was tired of eating my own cooking seven days a week. 

 

Early one Saturday evening, I decided to venture out.  So, off to Taco Bell I went.  Of course, the restaurant itself wasn’t open but drive through was doing a booming business.

 

I ordered a “Nachos Bell Grande” with lots of hot sauce.  When I glided up to the first window, a lanky teen ager greeted me with a big smile, and agreed to give me the senior’s discount.  You have to ask for it at Taco Bell.  

“Don’t forget the hot sauce,” I reminded him.

This became my Saturday night ritual.  All week I look forward to it.  Nachos are my treat for the week, and my escape from the house.  But the best part is, that teen age boy who takes my order and my money.  It wasn’t long before he began to recognize my voice.  

“Yes, I know,” he said with a laugh.  “You want lots of hot sauce and a senior’s discount.”

He’s always very warm and friendly.  Actually, I miss him when he is not there.

LITTLE THINGS!  A telephone call from Germany, or my girlfriend on the east coast, a gift of wonderful grapefruit fresh from the tree, a friend coming to set up my newly purchased puppy playpen, beautiful tulips from the people who deliver my groceries.  LITTLE THINGS!  These are the things that have kept me going.

I don’t need a Prime Rib dinner at Texas Road House.  A sweet young man at Taco Bell fits the bill.  When I’m lonely and alone, I just need someone who cares, and I believe we all feel that way.  

Honestly, being in the ministry for so many years, I was sort of used to people doing nice things for me.  Of course I liked it.  Who wouldn’t?  However, during this year of disease, distress, and destruction, I have had to recalibrate my thinking to some degree.  I watched while neighbors, friends and total strangers have sacrificed to provide for those in need.  They have not only given stuff, but have given of their time and energy.  They have given themselves!  At the age of eighty-five, I am determined to give myself.  That may not be much, but it’s the little things, the caring that matters.

In Mark 12:41-44, Jesus tells of an offering He observed.  He saw rich people giving much. Then a poor widow came and threw in two small coins—two cents.  Jesus told His disciples, “…this poor woman gave more to the collection than all the others put together.  All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.” 

In 1 Corinthians 12:28, the Apostle Paul speaks of some of the gifts God has put in the Church.  Apostles, Prophets, Teachers, workers of Miracles…and He places the gift of “Helps” right in the middle of the other great gifts. We sometimes have the idea that, if we can’t be something great, we can’t be anything at all.  Fact is most of us will never be Prophets, Teachers, or Apostles, but we can all be helpers.

Virginia, she is in glory now, was a missionary with me in Belgium.  She was the poster child for the “gift of helps.”  She was always there to do the menial things that no one else had  time to do.  She thought she was not of much use, and sometimes longed for a more elevated position.  Only in heaven will she understand what an essential place she played in her service to God and others.  Her little things were indispensible.

You may never be a person of renown, but you can be a Helper.  In the end, with your “Little things” you will have given more than all the greats.

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

    

 

BEYOND UNDERSTANDING

 

The e-mail said, “How are you doing?  I know your wedding anniversary is coming up, and I’m just wondering if you are all right.”

I was surprised by the message.  No one else remembered, and I guess that is to be understood.  It was only my eighth anniversary, and the fact that my husband had lived only five months after we married, caused it to seem, to some, like it had never happened.

I didn’t spend the day crying.  I taught my Bible study, and went to the cemetery.  Later I went to Olive Garden for soup and salad.  Cecil’s and my first date was at the Olive Garden.  I don’t think I Knew it was a date.  After seventy-six years I had given up any such idea.  I just thought we were two old, and I do mean old, friends getting together for dinner.

Much to my great surprise, and not a little terror, I began to understand that, after all these years, God had sent this precious man, a man who loved me, into my life.  I was no longer alone.  Tamping down my fear, and giving up to love, we married.

Those five months were oh, so sweet for the two of us.  Five Months! Then Cecil was gone.  WHY?  I don’t know why.  Having walked with God all these years, I could say, “It was God’s will,” and I’m sure it was, but then there’s another, “WHY?”  After I had waited so long, after we had been married such a short time, why did God WILL to take Cecil away? 

It was beyond my understanding.  To this day I don’t understand it.  In the beginning, in the midst of my grief, I vowed that I would one day question God, and demand an answer for my loss.  However, I realize that, when I stand before Him, it won’t matter anymore.  My loss will have been forgotten.

In this life, we all face many things that are beyond our understanding—both the good and the bad.  As human beings, we like to think that we are able to understand everything, but that is not the case.  There are just some things beyond our comprehension.

I just read about Stephen M. Barr, who is a theoretical physicist.  He is researching Grand Unified Theories and Baryogenesis and the Flipped Scheme of Unification. I don’t have any idea what any of that means, and—(Just so you know, I read about Stephen Barr because, as a scientist, He believes that science and faith can coexist, and that modern scientific discoveries are compatible with religion.) there’s so much more that is beyond my understanding.

I don’t understand this computer that I sit before at the moment, and I have used it for years.  I am always amazed that somewhere inside this thing are the answers to any kind of question I wish to ask.  Oh, I know it was programmed that way, but how in the world did the guys that programmed it know what I need to know?

It is not, however, my lack of knowledge and understanding of this technological age that bothers me.  In fact, recently a youngster offered to help me navigate some new computer program, but I said, “No, I don’t want to learn anything else,” and I didn’t at that moment.  At the age of 85, that’s my prerogative.

It is the unsolvable problems that occur and the unexpected situations that arise in my  everyday life that stymies us.  This pandemic that, in one year, has changed every area of our lives is surely beyond understanding.  BUT!  God is in control, and I know that He knows what is going on.  He sees and understands the whole sorry mess.  That is what keeps me going.

Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.  “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Job was a man who suffered many unexpected things losing everything even his health.    He knew that troubles come to men, but he certainly did not understand why he suffered this trial, and he told God so.  But he determined early on in his trials that he would seek God, and commit all to Him.  Why?  Because he knew God did great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number.

The Message says it this way.  Job 5:8-9, “If I were in your shoes, I’d go straight to God.  I’d throw myself on the mercy of God.  After all, he’s famous for great and unexpected acts, there’s no end to his surprises.”

Seem to me that is great advice.  I don’t know what incomprehensible trial you are facing today.  It’s all right to be honest with God.  Like Job, tell him how you feel.  Then, knowing He is in control, cast all your care on Him, for it is He who does great, unexpected, marvelous things.  

Just as our trials are beyond understanding, so also are the wondrous things He does for those who love Him.  Not because we deserve it, but because He is a God of mercy.

I am determined to depend upon Him even in the darkest of times.

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

GIVING WITH ALL YOUR HEART

Kohl’s Department store is airing a commercial, “Giving with All Your Heart.” It is the story of a lonely, isolated, bored little girl, who strikes up a friendship, through her window, with an elderly woman across the way.  The question posed is, “Will you be my friend?”  It is easy to see that the hearts of these two are fully engaged.  They are each offering warmth and love and regard for each other—the best gift that anyone can offer or receive.

I love buying or making gifts for others, and I sorrow that my list has dwindled drastically through the years.  Many family members are gone, and old friends my age have decided mutually that we can no longer afford it, so we have settled for loving one another over the phone.  I keep my eyes open all year for gifts that will make loved ones smile.  I also listen carefully to find what they are longing for.  I spent hours yesterday afternoon wrapping and beautifying my packages.  O, I know gift bags are now the thing, but a beautiful package is part of the gift, and says, “I really do value you.”

          Christmas is a time for giving.  That’s really what Christmas is all about, but it is not as simple as it sounds.  This year, in particular, a good deal of our shopping is done online.  I’m not really an online shopper—for I like to see and handle the things I buy, before I put my money down.  So, last week I went to a department store for the first time since February.  I was excited to go, but somewhat disappointed in what I found.  I went looking for pretty things, even sort of dressy things, but mostly I found sweatshirts, t-shirts, and laid-back stuff. Often, when we don’t find what we want immediately, stress and time limitation tempt us into buying just anything.

When it comes to gift giving, it is easy to give cash, gift cards, or something trendy.  However, that is not the hallmark of giving from the heart, but of obligation.  Giving from the heart means making someone else a priority.

There has been an example of that kind of giving setting on my buffet for forty-five years.  My first Christmas and birthday in Brussels, in 1975, was difficult for me.  Having been in country for less than four months, I was just beginning to adjust to a new life.  Then Christmas loomed on the horizon, and I didn’t know how I would survive without my family. 

One day, shopping with my roommate, I fell in love with a little “English Royal Crown Derby” bone china bird.  He is blue, white and gold, not three inches long from bill to tail. I oohed and aahed and longed for that little beauty, but English Royal Crown anything was too expensive for a rooky missionary, so I reluctantly left him behind.  Imagine my surprise and joy when I opened that small package on my birthday, three days after Christmas, and found that delicate little bird.  My roommate didn’t have any more money than I had—it was a gift from the heart. 

Giving from the heart means putting thought and effort behind the gift.  It really is the thought that counts.  We need a mind with a heart.  We need to let our feelings shine through, and guide us to giving something special, and “special” doesn’t necessarily mean grand and expensive. Give because you want to.  Give out of an expression deep within. That’s what my roommate did.

Scientific studies show that giving from the heart without strings attached or expecting something in return results in the release of hormones such as Oxytocin, also known as the “cuddle hormone.” The ability to give freely produces in us a sense of health and happiness and overall well being.  In contrast, giving with expectations of getting something in return can leave us suffering pain, stress and feelings of separation.

Giving with all your heart means giving with love.

That’s what God did.  Love is the basic substance of God.  “God so loved that He gave His only son,” the first Christmas gift.  And Jesus gave His life, so that I might have the gift of life.  What marvelous examples in loving and giving!

Luke 10:27 tells us what we may do to show our gratitude, “…you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”  If we love God that way, then we belong to Him completely.

Loving God and loving our neighbor is basic to our existence.  Neighbors are not always easy to love, but God said we are to love even our enemies.  Real love values the differences, and uniqueness of others.  We talk about, sing about, and write about love all the time, but how do we love our neighbor as ourselves? 

We love our neighbor by giving of ourselves.  We give our time, our energy, our help, our substance, and our love to those who are hurting and in need.  

In Matthew 25:40, Jesus said, “…in as much as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to me.” In a very real way, every small act of service, kindness, thoughtfulness, and caring that we do for someone else is an act of loving God.

This Christmas I want to give as God gives.  I want to give with all my heart both to God and to others.  Instead of stress, frustration, and depleted energy, I want to experience the JOY OF GIVING!

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

EENY MENY MINY MOE

When I was a little girl, we had a flock of chickens (Rhode Island Reds) and one very big, very mean rooster.  The chickens were not free range, but the rooster thought he was.  He always found a way to free himself from the chicken pen, and he ranged wherever he chose.  Every time I walked out the kitchen door, that rooster was waiting for me.  Squawking and flapping his ugly red wings, he swooped down on me pecking at my tender little ankles.  I hated that bird!!!

eeny-meny-miny-moe-2In spite of the rooster, raising chickens had its benefits.  We always had fresh eggs and, from time to time, fried chicken or chicken and dumplings.  I will not bother you with the gross details of how my mother killed and butchered the chicken.  Suffice it to say, every bite was scrumptious.

But that was not the end of the benefits.  The chickens had to eat, and they would never be satisfied with a few bugs and an odd worm here and there.  They needed maize; the kind of feed that produces good eggs.  Maize is dried corn, which looks kind of like popcorn before it pops.  We ordered our maize from the local Feed and Seed Store.

At the appointed time that big flat bed truck rolled into our gravel driveway.   The driver hoisted me or my little sister, depending upon whose turn it was, onto the bed of the truck.  And there they were—great hundred pound bags of chicken feed – not burlap bags, mind you.  These bags were made of beautiful printed fabric, covered with little pink roses or purple pansies.  Sometimes the fabric was decorated with stripes or dots or even Disney characters.

eeny-meny-miny-moe-1 To my young eyes, they were bright and beautiful, and I could choose the one I liked the best, but there were so many to choose from.  Looking from sack to sack, and pointing with my finger I began the ritual.  “Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe.”  No, not that one!  I started over.  “Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe.”  Then I added to the rhyme.  “

Then I added to the rhyme.  “My mother told me to choose the very best one.”  Finally, the choice was made, and the sack was lowered to the ground.

It was a difficult and important choice for a seven year old, for when the chicken feed was used up, my magical Mama would open the seam on the sack and wash and iron the fabric and fashion a beautiful dress for me.  She always added ruffles or rick rack and other little embellishments.  No matter that the fabric was coarse, and the colors might fade, I donned that bright new dress with joy and wore it with great pride.

Just little sidelight – women made everything from dishrags to dresses out of printed feed sacks.  By 1942, an estimated three-million Americans wore at least one article of clothing made out of a feed sack.

eeny-meny-miny-moe-3I have made many choices in my eighty years on this earth – some of them mind-boggling —many of them life changing.  When I was five years old, I made the most important choice of my life.  I chose Jesus as my savior, and I have been choosing Him ever since.

We make choices every day.  Many choices are casual requiring little thought.  What will I wear—where will I go—what will I prepare for dinner?  Other, more difficult and important choices have to do with money or health or relationships.  Can I afford to buy this car?  Should I seek a second opinion?  What can I do to save my marriage?

However, the most crucial and demanding choice we will ever make concerns our relationship with God and how we will spend eternity.

You can worship at the altar of culture, education, entertainment, nature, or wealth.  This world offers many possibilities.  But there is only one God who offers life eternal.  He loves you and, according to John 15:16, “…He has chosen you…”

Now you have a choice to make.

Joshua 24:15 admonishes, “Choose this day whom you will serve.”

Deuteronomy 30:19 tells us, “Choose life so that you … will live.”

In Isaiah 7:15 we read, “Refuse evil and choose good.”

These are choices that everyone must make sooner or later.  Eeny, Meny, Miny, Moe won’t help you with these decisions.  These choices must come from a sincere heart – a heart that longs to know God.

You may be wrestling with a life changing decision today.  You have no idea what to do.  Choose Jesus.  He will shine His rays upon your confused mind and light up the darkness.

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW

 

 

 

 

 

 

PRECIOUS IN HIS SIGHT

Before his illness, Cecil and I cuddled together on the sofa each evening after dinner. He loved to hear tales about my days in the ministry. One night I wept, as I shared a hurtful experience. Tender hearted Cecil wept with me wetting my neck and shoulder with his tears.

little girl Holding me close, he whispered, “You are so precious.”

Those sweet words turned everything inside me to mush, but at the same time I had an awful urge to laugh right out loud. No one, whom I could remember, had ever called me precious – sassy maybe, feisty, opinionated, pushy, perhaps even pretty or smart, but precious? Never! Oh, I know I was precious to my Mom and Dad, at least I hope I was, but they didn’t use that word.

I knew the word, though, even when I was little. When I was five and six years old, my pastor used to let me sing in the Sunday evening service. But by the time he was ready for me, I had already taken off my shoes in preparation for a nap. He always called me “Little Sister Clark.” So, “Little Sister Clark” padded barefoot up to the platform and sang. My favorite vintsong was “Jewels.”

Little children, little children,

Who love their Redeemer.

Are His jewels, PRECIOUS jewels.

His loved and His own.

In Sunday school, we also sang “…red and yellow, black and white. They are PRECIOUS in His sight. Jesus loves the little children…”

I knew the word. I understood that I was precious, whatever that meant. I figured it must be good, because Jesus loved me and I belonged to Him.

I finally found out that precious means something of value or high price, something highly esteemed or cherished, or something excessively refined or costly.

vintage girl 1We speak of precious metals, precious gems, and works of art by the Masters. The Hope Diamond is valued at $350,000,000.00, the 3,106 carat Cullinan Diamond at $400.000.000.00. It has been suggested that the country of France sell off the Mona Lisa, said to be worth $787,000,000.00, in order to pay their national debt.

It is not unusual for people to pay millions for some artifact to hang on a wall or display in a glass front case. To these people things are precious and money is not an issue.

However, there is something or someone far more precious than paintings and jewels. Cecil was right. I am precious! You are precious!

The Mona Lisa was created by the master painter, Leonardo de Vinci.

You were created by the Master of all masters, God Himself. He, who spoke the worlds into existence, formed you with his own hands. What a sculptor!

If the Mona Lisa is valued at $787,000,000.00, think of your value to the heart of God.

vintA precious thing is esteemed or cherished, and so also are you. In Zephaniah 3:17, we read, “He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will quiet you with His love. He will rejoice over you with singing.” Did you know, you make the heart of God glad? I, of all people, make the heart of God glad. Think of that!

Psalm 147:11 says, “The Lord takes pleasure in His people.” Just as you would stand before the Mona Lisa or the Hope diamond and admire the beauty and perfection, so God looks upon you and me, His creation, and He says, (Genesis 2:31) “What I did is good!” He takes pleasure in His work.

Now, I must not forget. A precious thing may also be extremely costly. In Matthew 13:45-46 we read of a merchant, who sold all he possessed in order to buy one beautiful pearl. But that’s nothing!

Think of what God did. He paid the ultimate price. He gave His only Son, Jesus, and Jesus gave His life to buy you back from sin and make you a member of His own family.

You are God’s most costly possession. You are of great value. You are highly esteemed. You are cherished, and God has paid a great ransom for you. You are a child of the King.

This wondrous truth ought to make you walk taller. There ought to be a lilt to your laughter, a twinkle in your eye, and a spring in your step.

All the lies the enemy has told you are just that. Lies! You are of value. You are special. You are going to make it, and God loves you!

retro phoneLook up! Morning has dawned, the sun is shining, and God is singing because of you!